Adm. Harry Harris Jr., head of U.S. Pacific Command, has said the command plans to increase the number and scope of missions intended to challenge Chinese ownership claims over South China Sea reefs and islands, USNI News reported Wednesday.
John Grady writes Harris told his audience at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event in Washington that China has reclaimed nearly 3,000 acres of coral reef area over an 18-month period.
The U.S. sent a USS Lassen guided-missile destroyer near the artificial Subi Reef island in October as part of “freedom of navigation” operations in the South China Sea.
“I believe that the Lassen operation did challenge some aspects of China’s claims,” Harris noted.
He also believes that having multiple allies in the Asia Pacific is one of U.S’ asymmetric advantages over China, Sydney Freedberg Jr. reported for Breaking Defense.
Harris met with Chinese military officials last fall and said they were rigid about China’s ownership of disputed islands and their natural resources, Freedberg writes.
“I made clear my view, my personal view, that those islands do not belong to China and that the land reclamation activities [i.e. island building] were increasing the tensions in the region,” Harris added.